Healthy Goals for the New Year: Start with an Annual Wellness Exam

Ask anyone about their New Year’s resolutions and chances are that their answer will include losing weight. For health care providers, hearing that patients are motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes is great, however we know resolutions can often be short lived. In fact, research tells us that only 25% of people who make health resolutions will continue two weeks before falling back into old habits.

Encouraging patients to schedule annual wellness exams is a great way to assess, progress and motivate patients to stick to their health goals. These yearly appointments not only help keep patients on track with weight loss, they also provide a great opportunity to discuss preventive services that may be due, such as immunizations, mammograms, and cancer screenings.

During the wellness exam, remind patients about positive health benefits that can result from a modest 5-10% decrease in body weight, including:

Cholesterol – Being overweight is linked to high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. Losing 5-10% of body weight with diet and exercise can help to significantly decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and it also has been shown to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels by up to 5 points and decrease triglycerides by an average of 40 mg/dL.

Blood Pressure – Losing weight can help to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. A 5-10% weight reduction can result in a 5 mmHg decrease on average, and greater reductions may be achieved by consuming a lower-fat diet that is enriched with fruits and vegetables such as the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).

Diabetes – Weight loss can help patients with Type 2 diabetes become less insulin resistant, obtain better glucose control, and reduce the risk of developing other health complications such as cardiovascular disease. For patients with pre-diabetes, lifestyle interventions including modest weight loss can decrease the overall risk of diabetes by 58%.

Medication Spend – In addition to all of the positive health benefits that result from a modest weight reduction, some patients may be able to reduce the dosage of their chronic medications or no longer require some medications at all, which means more savings on annual prescription drug costs.